Medical Uses of an Enema
• Bowel Stimulant- An enema functions like a laxative, but it is administered into the colon through the rectum. After a period of holding, the patient is allowed to expel it into a toilet or bedpan. It is used to alleviate fecal impaction and constipation. Enemas that stimulate the bowel consist usually of water, water with mild soaps or mineral oils or water mixed with baking soda. Isotonic saline solutions are useful when it has to be retained for longer periods. These solutions do not drain out the electrolytes as can happen with normal water. It will also prevent water from being drawn into the colon as can normally happen when phosphates are used.
• Before surgical procedures- Procedures like colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy require the lower intestinal area to be cleaned out before it is done. Enemas that use sodium phosphate are preferred due to the convenience it offers.
• IBD- In the treatment of IBD (Inflammatory bowel disease), medications like mesalazine and corticosteroids are administered using enemas. It ensures that the medicine does not get absorbed into the bloodstream by having to pass through the gastrointestinal tract but limits itself to the affected area.
• General anesthetics- Anesthetics are sometimes administered through the rectum so that patients do not have the side effects associated with it.
• Barium enema- It is used when radiological imaging of the bowel is to be done. It acts as a contrast agent and is a safe method to view the colon.
• When medication cannot be given orally, enemas may be used to administer these, ensuring that it goes directly into the bloodstream thereby avoiding the digestive system.